New Zealand - Auckland

Trip Start Dec 05, 2005
Trip End Ongoing

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Sunday, January 21, 2007

Our main objectives in Auckland were a bit less exciting than merely sightseeing. We had to sell our car and book our onward journeys throughout Asia. We had no idea how long it would take to sell the car (and we didn't want to have to flog it for next to nothing one day before leaving) so that was our priority.
Upon checking into our Hotel Formule 1 apartment we discovered that there was a car market the following day at Ellerslie Racecourse just outside the city centre. We weren't at all prepared but we didn't want to miss the opportunity - especially as it was only open on Sundays. We spent that evening empting the car, re-packing it with the stuff we wanted to get rid of, printing out flyers to hand out to prospective buyers, and getting an early night as it opened at 8am.
The following morning we got the car cleaned inside and out (not that you would have noticed - automatic cleaners are rubbish!) and made it to the car market by 8:30am. The place was already packed, both with sellers and buyers, so we made our way to the 'under $5000' section and parked up.
We were told that the market would be frequented by plenty of backpackers (our target market) but by 11:30 we hadn't seen a single one. A few people had shown marginal interest but the excessive mileage, numerous dents and inflated price (due to all the extra camping gear) had quashed any genuine offers. We were ready to give up. Everyone around us seemed to be giving test drives, allowing mechanical checks, or simply collecting payment; whereas we were still stood around like a couple of lemons.
Andrew was on the phone to his parents and we were going to leave as soon as he said goodbye. In the meantime Verdi had two 'interested parties' to contend with - our first backpacker and a couple who had previously taken the car next to us for a test drive and an inspection. Both parties were very interested and the couple decided to take the car for a test drive. The car they had inspected earlier showed up to have over $2000 worth of work required so they were looking for a newer, more reliable vehicle. The test drive told them all they wanted to know and strangely they decided not to bother with an inspection, proceeding instead to arrange a time to exchange car for money the following day.
The strangest thing of all was that they were absolutely fine with our asking price of $3300! We couldn't believe it! It wasn't that we had set an exorbitant price but we were fully prepared to take anything as low as $2300 - especially for such a quick sale. The following day we set up a New Zealand bank account and swapped our car for $3300 - $700 more than we had paid for it 5 weeks earlier!
With that job successfully completed (and a lot quicker and simpler than we had ever imagined) we could now dedicate our time and effort to planning and booking our trip into Asia. We currently had a flight booked to Rarotonga in the Cook Islands but having looked into accommodation on the island, and flights onto the next destination, it was becoming very expensive. Our idea was to cancel the flight and use the credit to fly back to Australia where we could then fly to Fiji, where the accommodation and onward flights would be a bit more cost effective.
 After hours talking to two different travel agents (STA Travel and Flight Centre) we eventually ditched our second plan and booked a 10-night stay on the south coast of Bali, Indonesia. We had planned to go to Bali after Rarotonga (or Fiji) so we merely changed our 'relaxation time' to Bali. This saved us over 50%.
With further discussion we managed to iron out a few more of our plans and booked a flight from Lhasa (in Tibet) to Beijing for early May. Other flights we planned to take would be easy enough, and cheaper, to buy when we were in Asia.
With the car sold and our first stop in Asia sorted we were finally able to see a few sights in and around Auckland. We had already briefly seen the northern beaches when we dropped the car off with its new owner in Browns Bay. The small town was nice enough but didn't really offer anything to keep us there for more than a couple of hours. We took the bus back to the city, crossing the Auckland Bridge and getting a good view of the city skyline across the water (PIC).
We had seen the Auckland Skytower from several angles; firstly driving into the city you can't miss it and also our hotel balcony looked out over the tower - albeit slightly obscured (PIC). By far the most impressive view of the tower is from the base and by night, when it is all lit up and jumps out from the rest of the surroundings (PIC).
Our hotel was also located just off the main street, Queen Street, so we spent plenty of time wandering up and down the main drag and adjoining streets, taking in the tacky tourist souvenir shops and numerous coffee shops that seem to make up most of the street. We also bought a couple of carved necklaces from the aforementioned tacky souvenir shops - so at least we had a memento from NZ.
As a final farewell, our hotel decided to ruin a few items of our clothing! We had put a couple of loads on to wash while we went out to find tacky souvenirs. When we returned we expected to find clean, dry clothes. Instead we found our clothes sitting in the bottom of the washing machines in a large puddle of water. The dye had run on a couple of items and ruined 2 t-shirts, a cardigan and a pair of trousers! Thanks Formule 1. We are trying to get compensation but its not that easy when you are travelling - watch this space!
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